After-school reading program improves skills, confidence

Posted Thursday, February 11, 2016 11:20 am
ORANGE PARK-Holding up a worksheet for three children to see, Tatiana Lopez pointed to the word “rib” and asked the girls to sound out the first letter, then the second and finally, the “b” sound.
“What’s the word?” said Lopez, a sophomore at Orange Park High.
In unison with two other first graders, Sóle Young repeated ‘rib’ before moving down the list of words. Young and 46 other students at Montclair Elementary in Orange Park participate in the Y Reads Program, an after-school enrichment class that gives kindergarteners through third graders extra lessons in reading, fluency and broadening vocabulary. Typically, students in the bottom quartile for reading are eligible and recruited to enter the program.
“At my stations, I’m learning about reading and sometimes at my other tables when we switch, sometimes you can go and read a book,” said Young, 7.
In its second year, the Y Reads Program located solely at Montclair, is funded by a grant from the Florida Department of Education and uses the SIPPS curriculum. The Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words was developed for new and struggling readers. Using SIPPS, students decode words and gain reading fluency and comprehension. Younger students learn letters and basic words, while older students learn to merge syllables.
“We have three levels,” said Clarissa Evans, the Y Reads Program coordinator. “We go through and we do individual letter sounds and as they progress through the level, they have to put those sounds together to make words.
“We do blending, we do segmenting. When they get further along, they have to sound out the words. The further they go, we expect them to have those skills in their head and we just have them read the word. They should be able to look at it and put all those sounds together.”
The program will run through June 30 and is split into Monday-Wednesday and Tuesday-Thursday sessions with half the students participating two days each week for an hour and a half each day. Students rotate between two of five stations, depending on their age and reading level.
“We have them sounding the words out but in our highest level, the challenge level, they start reading by syllable,” Evans said. “We’re just laying the foundation at this point but even when you’re reading by syllable, if you can’t figure out the smaller words that make up the bigger words, then they’re going to struggle. We have to make sure you can take the small word and sound that out, so when you get to the syllable you separate the smaller words and put it together and come up with the big word.”
Jayla Prout, 6, joined last year as a kindergartener and needed extra help with reading. Prout’s mother, Lindsey Gibson, said the program helped her not only learn to read but to develop a love for reading.
“She has come a long way,” Gibson said. “Before, she wasn’t interested. I would read to her and try to get her to read back to me but this program has helped her become more interested in reading. We’ll be at home and I don’t have to tell her that she needs to read. In her classroom, her teacher has noticed an improvement. I’ve noticed an improvement. It opened up her vocabulary. She does spelling tests every Friday and she’s gotten just about every one correct.”
Volunteer Kathy Stawara worked with students on finding the main idea within a sentence, sounding out words, and memorizing sight words. Stawara, who started in September, likes that her groups are small because it helps them grasp the lesson more quickly.
“When you see their little lightbulbs go on and their fluency improves, it is so rewarding,” she said.
Improved literacy often equates to improved confidence in the children.
“When a kindergartener runs out and tells her mom that she can read, that’s the epitome of what the Y Reads program is about,” Evans said. “We’re giving them the skills. We’re working on their confidence and maybe if she hadn’t had the program, she might still be struggling.”

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